Bridging the Gaps in Creative Industry

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An architect finally finds a way to bridge seeming gaps in the creative industry, writes Vanessa Obioha

Right from childhood, Olubukola Bolarinde knew she had a proclivity towards the arts. She loved singing and fancied herself a musician each time she sang in the choir back in school. Nowadays, all she can do is sing in the confines of her bathroom.

She was also good at fine arts and found herself studying Architecture at the Welsh School of Architecture in Cardiff University Wales where she obtained a graduate degree. She proceeded to obtain her Masters in Environmental Design and Engineering in the School of Architecture called the Bartlett School of Architecture in University College, London, UCL.

With her educational qualifications, Bolarinde imagined a world where she would work for one of the top companies in America and tour the world. But things didn’t go as planned. When her plans failed, she boarded the next plane to Nigeria and landed a job with James Kubit Architects. While forging a career in her field with the company, she veered into project management and was seconded to the banking industry.

“I was at Standard Chartered Bank for about two years, working as a project manager and handling all the projects end to end. They were rolling out new branches across the country. We had several projects in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos and I handled it all as the project manager. This started my foray into project management and I thought this was quite interesting and it made me a very good project manager because I had a background in architecture,” she said.

From there, she went into oil and gas where she worked with Zenon Petroleum & Gas Limited for about seven years as project manager and head of FO Properties. She later joined the telecom industry.
Throughout her career transition, Bolarinde never gave up on her artistic passion. She taught herself how to paint and at a time dared to display the paintings at the Nike Art Gallery.

“I started painting, working with acrylic on canvass, playing with oil on canvass and some pieces turned out well. I used to take them to Nike Art gallery, they are very good friends of mine and even though nobody was going to buy them, we would put red stickers on them and hang them on the wall so they tell everyone who walks in that the paintings were sold. I was just experimenting and that went very well,” she discloses.

Perhaps, to improve her painting skills, the architect developed an insatiable appetite for art pieces. She collected art works from Ghana, UK, USA, Nigeria and anywhere else her feet touched.
Bolarinde enthuses: “I love contemporary African art, I am immersed in it. I go to Nike Art gallery and I can spend four hours walking through every floor just going through the art. I also began collecting art pieces from this young man, who is not so young anymore (laughs) Nelson Ukoh. I bought quite a few like over 30 pieces because I really loved his style and the pieces spoke to me.

I noticed that this artist had a gap and was not cutting across to an audience I believe would have taken up a lot of his works, so I bridged some of those gaps. I was able to make some introductions and it worked out quite well and this sort of started my foray into informally representing talents as it was never a formal thing. I leveraged on my network, friends, relationships and people that I knew who like me were art collectors and that worked out quite well.

I later met another self-taught artist who was also a colleague of mine and he had never been commercial, but he is so gifted and talented. He said I knew people and had a network then I should help him broker some of the pieces. I started doing it to help him. I was not paid any fee or commission, but I did that to help and he was very happy. Some of the pieces sold much more that they ordinarily would have sold if they were trying to pitch them independently.”

Early this year, Bolarinde received a call from a friend who wanted talents for a new TV series. It took Bolarinde few days to get the job done. It was during this process of scouting for new talents in the creative industry that it dawned on the self-taught artist that there is a missing link in the industry which she can adequately fill. Her curiosity led her to start a company that not only manages talent but create a pool of creative talent. Called Yellow Dot Limited, the company according to Bolarinde is focused on the creation of original African content, production for TV and film.

“I have come to see how we have so many undiscovered talents in Nigeria. It is unbelievable how really gifted these kids are and I am talking about the up and coming ones. There are so many of them that can do stuff but have not garnered the trust nor the experience to put out their good work, but it doesn’t change the fact that they can. They also are not enabled in the sense that they probably do not have the tools to put out the best quality of work because these things are expensive to acquire, even to rent. If you want to make a movie, to rent a high-quality equipment is very expensive for a young filmmaker to get the money but he does have the artistic direction to deliver.

In the broader spectrum talking about Nigeria and how it fits into the film industry globally, we are already doing a lot of work, there is a lot of excellent work being put out there, I believe that Nigerians have become more aware of what we can do in the film industry and are becoming very proud of it as well. Platforms such as the AMVCA are a huge platform that keeps putting us out there and puts us on the global map and every year, there is improved output in the quality of work, the storyline and content that we are putting so definitely I think that Nigeria is on the right part,” she explained.

So far, 15 talents who cut across the arts and entertainment industry are managed by the company and in the coming months, the company will be releasing is first production, a movie titled ‘Oni diri’ (hairdresser).

“‘Oni diri’ is in summary a discovery. It is about a woman looking back on her childhood and telling you the truly peculiar African experience because ‘Oni diri’ will only ever, I daresay, would have been experienced by an African girl. For us it is a pure story that we wanted to put out there not only to Nigerians but to the world. In Nigeria it is easy to relate but outside here, people in the UK, America will never ever have thought that a movie about a hair dresser will be expressed in that way, which is why I say it’s a discovery. It is an adventure from a child’s eye or a child’s point of view,” she adds.

Working in this space is a sort of fulfillment to Bolarinde and she hopes that her company will be recognized as that company that puts out excellent material when it comes to original African content, solely produced, written, directed, shot, packaged and put out by Yellow Dot.